Chocolate mocha cake is a must for anyone who loves coffee and chocolate together. Soft chocolate cake layers, creamy espresso filling, and lots of mocha buttercream make this cake absolutely incredible!
I like to pretend that coffee-flavored baked goods make suitable breakfasts. Anyone else? Because starting my day without coffee is kind of unthinkable.
Soft chocolate cake layers, espresso cream filling, and mocha buttercream make this chocolate mocha cake the hands-down best breakfast ever :).
It also makes a pretty good dessert too (or even dinner, if that’s how you roll).
Why you’ll love this mocha cake:
- You don’t need a stand mixer to make it
- You can break the work up over a couple of days if you want
- It freezes well so you can always have a stash of cake on hand!
How to make the cake layers
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl
- Whisk together, then set aside
- In a second bowl, combine sugar, butter, and a few other ingredients and mix to combine
- Stir in the dry ingredients
- Then mix in coffee until smooth
- Divide between 8-inch round cake pans and bake!
- If your cocoa powder is lumpy, sift it before mixing it with the dry ingredients.
- Don’t over-bake your cake because it has a tendency to dry out.
- If you like doctored cake mixes, you can totally sub your favorite doctored chocolate cake here as long as it makes three 8-inch layers.
- Be sure to cool your cake layers fully before filling and frosting them.
- If you want to make your cake layers a day ahead, cool them to room temp, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store them at room temperature overnight.
How to make the espresso filling
- Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth
- With mixer on medium, beat in heavy cream and beat until it holds stiff peaks
- Beat in espresso powder and vanilla
Then just pop your filling in the fridge while you make the frosting!
- You can use low-fat cream cheese for the filling if you prefer but don’t use nonfat.
- You can use instant coffee rather than instant espresso, but your filling won’t have as strong a coffee flavor.
- “Stiff peaks,” as specified in the recipe, means that when you pull the beaters out of the filling mixture, the filling should hold its shape rather than fold in on itself.
How to make the frosting
- Beat room temperature butter until creamy
- Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and a few other ingredients
- Mix until very smooth and creamy
- Your butter needs to be at room temperature so it mixes properly with the other ingredients and also so your frosting gets nice and fluffy.
- You can add more or less espresso powder depending on how deep a coffee flavor you want in your frosting.
- You can make the frosting a day before you use it. Store it, covered, in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to use it, beat with an electric mixer set to high until it’s spreadable. (You might have to add a tiny bit of milk or cream but I don’t usually find that necessary.)
How to assemble your cake
- Pipe a circle of frosting around the edge of one cake layer
- Spread half of the filling inside
- Top with a second cake layer and repeat the process of piping and filling the circle, then top with the last layer
- Frost your cake with the remaining frosting
Then you’ll pop the cake in the fridge to chill overnight if you’re adding the ganache drip, or just decorate and serve if you’re not.
I reserved some frosting to pipe on top of my cake. If you want to do that, cover the leftover frosting with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, beat it with an electric mixer on high speed until it’s pipe-able.
How to make the ganache drip
First, I’ll say that the drip is an optional way to adorn your cake—you can totally skip this step and your cake will still be delicious.
- Pour warm heavy cream over chopped chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes
- Whisk until smooth
- Transfer the ganache to a squeeze bottle or large plastic bag with one corner snipped off and squeeze a circle around the top of the cake, applying pressure in some points to create drips
Then spread the rest of the ganache inside the circle chill to set the ganache, and serve! (Or decorate with more frosting if you saved a little like I suggested above.)
How to store your cake
Uneaten chocolate mocha cake can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to three days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months.
I like to freeze slices of cake individually. I freeze the slices on a baking sheet for half an hour to set the filling and frosting, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil.
I just eat slices of cake frozen, but you can zap them in the microwave (unwrapped) for a minute or so to defrost them.
Helpful tools for making the cake
- These are the squeeze bottles I use for the ganache
- I use Medaglia d’Oro instant espresso powder
- This Ateco 849 tip is what I used for the frosting on top of the cake
- A cake turntable is really helpful for filling and frosting cakes because you can move the cake around so easily
- An offset spatula is also super helpful when you’re frosting cakes!
Did you make this mocha cake? Awesome! Let me know what you think with a comment and a rating below. Then post a pic on IG–tag @theitsybitsykitchen so I can see your delicious creations!
Chocolate mocha cake is a must for anyone who loves the combination of chocolate and espresso!
- Chocolate cake layers
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm coffee
- 4 ounces full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream well chilled
- 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 6 to 10 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 4 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces dark chocolate finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 3 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
- Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with cooking spray and set pans aside.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. (If your cocoa powder has a lot of clumps in it then sift it before mixing with the flour.) Whisk to combine, then set aside.
- Combine the sugar, butter, and vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.
- Use a rubber spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then slowly mix in the coffee, stirring until just incorporated. (Take care to scrape the bottom of the bowl while you’re mixing to ensure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.)
- Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 26 to 32 minutes, until the cakes spring back when touched gently with your fingertip.
- Let cake layers cool in pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pans and carefully remove. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting. Take care not to over-bake or the cake layers will be dry!
- Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- With mixer on medium speed, gradually beat in the heavy cream.
- Once all the cream has been added, turn the mixer to high and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks, then beat in the espresso powder and vanilla until fully combined.
- Refrigerate while you work on the frosting.
- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very smooth.
- Add 4 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, the cocoa powder, 6 tablespoons of the milk or cream, and the espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low until combined, stopping a few times to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Turn mixer to medium and beat until frosting is very smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if frosting is too thin and additional milk or cream if it is too thick.
- Use a long serrated knife to trim your cake layers if they’ve domed. Set one layer on a cake stand or cardboard cake circle.
- Transfer about 1 cup of frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe a thick circle of frosting around the edge of the cake layer. Spread half of the filling inside the circle.
- Top with a second cake layer and repeat the process of piping and filling the circle.
- Use the remaining frosting to frost your cake. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before adding the drip. (If you’re not adding the chocolate drip then you can decorate the cake and serve now.)
- Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds, until very hot but not boiling.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes. Whisk until completely smooth.
- Transfer the ganache to a plastic squeeze bottle (or a large zip-top plastic bag with one corner snipped off). Squeeze a circle of ganache around the edge of the cake, applying a little extra pressure at certain points to create drips.
- Carefully spread the remaining ganache over the top of the cake. If desired, decorate the top of the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans. Refrigerate to set the ganache, then slice and serve.
- Uneaten cake can be stored (covered) in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer (tightly wrapped) for up to 3 months.
- You can store your cake layers overnight to fill and frost the next day. Cool them completely, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to a day.
- “Stiff peaks,” as specified in the filling section, means that when you pull the beaters out of the filling mixture, the filling should hold its shape rather than fold in on itself.
- Use more or less espresso powder in the frosting depending on how deep a coffee flavor you want your frosting to have.
- The chocolate drip is an extra step you can skip if you want; your cake will still be delicious without it!